6-37th troops learn to cool down an angry mob
CAMP STANLEY, South Korea — “Yankee go home!” chanted the “protesters,” shortly before they ran amok at a checkpoint manned by 2nd Infantry Division soldiers at Camp Stanley on Wednesday afternoon.
It’s the sort of scenario U.S. troops face every day in Iraq, but for soldiers from 2nd ID’s 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, it was training designed to hone skills such as crowd control, building clearance and convoying in an urban environment.
The “protesters” were soldiers from 1st Battalion, 38th Field Artillery Regiment and children and parents from the Camp Stanley Pear Blossom Cottage.
When the civilians approached a vehicle checkpoint manned by the 6-37th, they began “Yankee go home!” chants and hurled insults such as “Baby killers!” at the soldiers. Soon, they were throwing “rocks” represented by water balloons, drenching the nearest soldiers guarding the wire and prompting a call for simulated tear gas from some troops.
Some of the more brazen protesters leaped over the wire and ran among the troops, waving banners in the soldiers’ faces and daring them to shoot. But the guards didn’t let the provocations get to them.
Instead, they rounded up the men who had crossed the wire — some at gunpoint — and shepherded them back to the other side.
Capt. Anthony Tanner of the 6-37th, who was supervising the training and acted as one of the protesters, said the scenario involved U.S. forces operating on the Korean Peninsula.
“The civilians don’t want us there. Disbanded special operations forces are blended in with the civilians and causing trouble. [The U.S. soldiers] don’t know whether we are terrorists or peaceful civilians,” he said, describing the scenario that involved North Korea.
Staff Sgt. William Rommel, of 6-37th’s A Battery, one of the soldiers manning the checkpoint, ended up drenched after several water bombs found their mark on his head and body. He described the experience as “a little annoying” but good training that made soldiers think about what could happen in the real world.
“They were very accurate, but they seemed to be having a good time,” he said, referring to the Pear Blossom Cottage children.
Rommel said his goal was to stop the protesters crossing the wire without using more force than necessary.
In an after-action review, Capt. Jeff McCoy, also of the 6-37th, told the soldiers who manned the checkpoint they did a good job calling for reinforcements and getting protesters back on the right side of the wire.
“You handled it really well and didn’t shoot anybody,” he said.
But, he added, the soldiers should have fired a warning shot when the first protesters jumped the wire and they could have detained some who disobeyed their instructions.
“Shout, show, shove, shoot. Once they come over the wire, they know there are consequences. In reality, most protesters value their lives,” he said.
McCoy said a warning shot stopped protesters looting near a telephone exchange when he was stationed with the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul, Iraq, last year. Demonstrators usually outnumber soldiers when protests happen in Iraq.
“They will get right up on your wire and curse you,” he said.
Tanner said the soldiers who dealt with the simulated protest would move on to practice setting up field artillery positions in urban terrain. Other 6-37th batteries are practicing building clearance at the Joint Security Area and live-fire convoys at Story Range.